Sphinx caterpillar has "eye spot" on its head which it covers and uncovers
It's been an exciting couple of days! Albert and I discovered these large green caterpillars while we were walking with our dog Honey. I took at bunch of shots and started the discovery process. Our books got close, telling us they were the larvae of a Sphinx Moth. But none of the varieties they showed matched ours detail for detail... the "white eyes" pattern along the sides, the multi-colored striped "knee socks" on their legs, the two-tone green body and large dark "eye" on the head.
So I sent this picture out to my experts. Thanks to Linda Evans we know they're Ello Sphinx Moth caterpillars! Looking at my series of shots, I can also add that their face looks like a manatee's and their abdominal end has two grasping "fingers" for moving along the stem.
Many articles showed Sphinx caterpillars without the brown "eye spot" on the head but ours clearly had it. When we returned to visit them in the next day, I watched one of them close the segments before and after the "eye" covering it up. Quite a wonderful way to become even more invisible to hungry predators. Even once we knew exactly what we were looking for and which plants they were living on, these green striped caterpillars were hard to see except in the bright early morning sunlight.
The Ello Sphinx moth has colorful hindwings and camouflaged forewings. Common in Florida and the southwest, it sometimes strays far to the north. Larvae feed on papaya (Carica papaya) in the Caricaceae family and on Cnidoscolus angustidens and other plants in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) including poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), guava (Psidium species) in the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) and on also saffron plum (Bumelia angustifolia/Bumelia celastrina) in the Sapotaceae family. Manilkara bahamensis has also been reported as a host as have Willow Bustic (Bumelia salicifolia) and Painted Leaf (Poinsettia heterophylla).
They are feeding on Nodding spurge (Chamaesyce nutans).
Sphinx Moth caterpillar, Erinnyis ello
For more info and pics, butterflies.heuristron.net/moths/elloSphinx.html.
Arch Creek East Environmental Preserve, North Miami, FL